Just One More Reason I Love My Job.

My school neighbor Marya is my Mother Earth. A proponent of alternative medicines, yoga, herbs, and all things New-Agey, she is my go-to person when traditional health remedies don’t work. She’s also a fabulous dream analyst.

Earlier this week, I had a rather strange dream: I was pregnant and in labor. But there weren’t any rooms in Labor & Delivery so I was in the ER, in a room. The nurses kept giving me things: blankets, robes, a CD player, and the foot of my bed was covered in Lindt chocolate truffles. I was hooked up to an IV and no one I knew was in the room with me. But I told a nurse that I was glad I was in labor since it meant I was going to meet my $3100 deductible early.

I floated this dream to my sisters to see if they knew what it might all mean, and I got “crazy dreams run in the family” and “The truffles reference mean you and me need to go to the outlet mall and get some!”

Here’s what Marya thinks:

The labor is a symbol for anything I might birth, like a major project. The fact that I was pregnant means it’s something I’ve been working on for a while. But the ER? Well, that could mean that whatever project that has been gestating will actually happen well before I had planned.

I didn’t pay attention to the items the nurses were bringing me, but Marya was quick to point out that they were items of comfort–things that bring me peace and happiness. As soon as she said that, I felt silly not not recognizing it myself.

The deductible comment threw her, but if the project will bring any kind of monetary benefit, then it makes sense.

So what am I working on? Hard to say. The book is always on my mind. A textbook for Pop Culture has to get done sooner than later (something I’ve been saying for three years). And Saturday, the musical starts and this music is tougher than the last two years.

At any rate, it is so lovely to work with someone who is patient enough to listen to my dreams and wise enough to help me make sense of them.

Just one more reason I totally love my job.

Asking For A Friend…

I am overweight.

I don’t write this to fish for compliments or evoke pity or cries of “Shut up. You are not.” I am. I get on a scale, I see the number, I put on clothes and see how they look–I have incontrovertible data that I am overweight.

So when I go to the doctor and she tells me I need to lose weight, and she gives me all the tools I could possibly need and I tell her I will try–really try–to lose a few pounds, what happens when I don’t?

More specifically, what happens to my doctor?

Does my doctor get reviewed by the chief of internal medicine to try and figure out why I, her patient, have not lost enough weight? What if I lose 5 pounds but not 15? Does my doctor get a little note in her personnel file about her failure to do enough for me in my quest for health?

Let’s say my doctor pulls me into her office and asks, “I notice you’ve stagnated at the same weight for the past two years. While maintaining is generally a good thing, at your weight, it’s not. We have to get that number to go down! So tell me what you do.”

And I tell her that when I get home it’s either too cold or I’m too tired or there’s too much good TV on and I don’t want to go to the gym. So she gives me home exercises to do. But I counter with the fact that I live on the 2nd floor of an apartment building and I don’t want to upset the downstairs neighbors or wear out my carpet.

So she calls my employer, who tells her, “Well we have three treadmills, two ellipticals and a brand new weight room she is welcome to use anytime!” And my doctor sends me an email: “I spoke with your principal and he said you are welcome to use the gym at your school! Now you don’t have to worry about cold or neighbors and can get in your workout!”

But I tell her that it’s too much hassle to pack a gym bag and I feel uncomfortable working out in front of students. So she sighs and says, “Okay then, let’s look at your diet.”

My diet is actually pretty healthy, especially if you take out the occasional chocolate binge or Chick-Fil-A run. “Maybe cut it to one piece of chocolate a day, and challenge yourself to not eat fast food for two weeks?” she suggests.

And I think, “Yeah, I can probably do that.” Until I decide I can’t, after a particularly stressful day and I choose to grab an order of large waffle fries on the way home.

What happens to my doctor then? She has given me opportunity after opportunity to lose weight, with multiple tools, has contacted the person who is the boss of me to seek support, and still, nothing. No results.

What happens to my doctor when I refuse to do what she asks, these things that will prolong and/or save my life?

I’m asking for a friend….

Because if you swap out all of this and replace “doctor” with “teacher” and replace “principal” with “parent” and replace all the health related language with homework or tests or reading or writing or math practice, what would you say then?

What happens to a teacher when her student refuses to do what she asks, refuses to take advantage of the resources she’s provided, these things that will give the student access to education, an exit from poverty and a leg up in life?

If I never lose another pound the rest of my life, my doctor will not lose her job. She has done everything she can.

If my students fail, though, my job could be in jeopardy.

How does that make sense? Seriously. Asking for a friend.

Alums.

This morning as I lazily munched on a bagel in bed and caught up on the TV show Leverage, I got a text from a former student.

“Lunch? I’m back in town for Thanksgiving!”

My plan for today was to laze around, clean a little, do laundry, and maybe grade some papers.

But I know how limited time is for students home for the holidays, so I texted back “Sure!” and figured out a new plan for the day.

First stop: put gas in my car. On my way out of the station’s store, I ran into my very first editor-in-chief for the newspaper. Big hugs and a promise to stop by during deadline week, and I was on my way.

Next stop: lunch. Loved hearing all about college life from one of the most mature, well-adjusted students I’ve ever known.

Final stop: Target. On my way in, I ran into a student who I never actually had, but who I knew from his time spent in the journalism room. As soon as I checked out, ran into my friend Ashley, who technically was one of my students 10 years ago, but we’ve now been friends for so long that I don’t even think of her as “former student” anymore. Caught up on her exciting life and got to giggle and make faces at her adorable 14 month-old daughter. Then as I walked to my car in the cold and wind, another alum–a newspaper staffer from my first year advising–a fantastic person who has written me a letter from college every year she’s been gone.

I love running into alums and catching up with them. It’s one of those intangible fringe benefits that come with teaching–never knowing who you might run into when, but feeling so happy when they see your face, then smile, and give you a big hug. I’m so grateful that they don’t turn around and walk the opposite direction when they see me.

Mrs. Mink.

Mrs. Mink was my senior English teacher. I was a tad bitter at my placement in her class; my junior English teacher refused to recommend me for AP Lit because of my “attitude problem,” (I once called him out during a class discussion in which he bashed music, and I didn’t read any of the books but still managed an A) so I was in a regular English class while my boyfriend got to take AP Lit.

But English with Mrs. Mink ended up being one of those experiences that changed my life. We read Hamlet and Lord of the Flies. Our research papers took the form of a letter, 10 years in the future, and we had to research what we thought our lives would be like (that’s a fun little trip down memory lane to read…and yes I still have it). And once, she let us choose books.

We could choose from The Color Purple, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Take a second to process those titles. Not for the faint of heart (and not taught in many public schools).

I picked The Handmaid’s Tale, and as part of the assignment, I had to keep a lit journal where I wrote observations about the book. Once a week, Mrs. Mink would collect them, and she actually wrote back to us.

I don’t recall what exactly I wrote about, but at one point I included, “I think I’m turning into an English teacher–looking for symbolism on every page! Oh no!”

Her response? “I think you’d actually make quite a good English teacher. You have a smart mind and are a good writer.”

I wish I could track her down and tell her how important those words have been to me the past 22 years. When a double major in vocal and piano performance was no longer wise for me to pursue, I turned to English because of her words. When I would get drafts of papers back, dripping in red ink, her words reminded me to just try harder.

So today I’m grateful for Mrs. Mink–a teacher who took a flippant remark from a snotty 17 year-old and turned it into a lifeline.

Vets and School.

Of course today I’m grateful for veterans–my people have been serving in the military since the American Revolution. Yay veterans. I love you. Especially the one I call dad.

But today I’m also quite grateful for my job, and not in the “yeah it gives me money” way. No, I’m grateful for the conversation I had with a student who is struggling with so much, because it reminded me that at the end of the day, the content I teach really isn’t all that important, the kids are. I’m grateful for my newspaper staff that makes me laugh more often than they make me crazy, and I’m grateful that two classes of students completely indulged the crazy iPad adventure we went on today, even though it totally crashed and burned. And then I’m grateful that at 7 a.m. Japan time, my nephew called me to double check the concept of metaphor.

Do you remember when I thought for sure I was never going to teach again? Can you even imagine that possibility now?

Neither can I.